Verner resident Normand Roberge took a break from picking raspberries Sunday morning to sit in the shade and tell BayToday not only would he welcome an appointment to fill the vacant Ward 7 seat in West Nipissing, but he is also prepared to run for the council seat if a by-election is called.
"With my experience, perhaps it would bring some stability to the table. I think I can help. I can do some more community work, I like to contribute," says Roberge.
Roberge stresses from the outset of the conversation he refuses to campaign for the position nor is he attempting to sway the votes of current council members. He does want his community and council to know, at 77 years of age, he has remained sharp and engaged.
"If council or the public, in their wisdom, want someone young with bright new ideas, I have no problem with that," says Roberge. "I support the democratic process."
See original story: Council split on replacing vacant seat in West Nipissing
When West Nipissing Council meets August 11, members are expected to discuss a staff report on filling the Ward 7 seat and identify the direction it will take to do so. Council can appoint the runner-up in the Ward 7 election (Roberge), ask for applications from interested parties to fill the seat, or open the process to eligible candidates and hold a by-election.
Retired after 41 years of service in the municipality's finance division, Roberge says three terms and 12 years as the representative for Ward 7 prior to the 2018 election loss to Jeremy Seguin have not quenched his thirst for public service.
"I'm starting to understand the system a bit," says Roberge — who still sits on four municipal boards, including the planning and agriculture committees — with a chuckle.
At the same time, Roberge sees an opportunity to bring a voice from outside but not too far removed from the council to "patch things up," as he puts it.
Roberge expresses his regrets Seguin felt the need to remove himself from the council. "I fully support him. Family comes first."
One of Seguin's reasons given for resigning was the "toxic and dysfunctional," West Nipissing Council. Seguin has also expressed the pressure he felt as consistently serving as the tiebreaking vote.
See related story: Reaction to Seguin's resignation, 'lack of leadership' claim
"I hope we could have the opportunity to express our opinions and discuss things long enough that a clear majority develops to avoid always having a tiebreaking situation," says Roberge on the possibility of rejoining council.
Roberge says his philosophy on decision-making is simple. "The way I look at it, you win some, you lose some. If I lost, maybe I didn't do my homework properly, maybe I didn't express myself enough. Or, the other party had a better solution to the problem than I had to offer and I change my position."
Roberge also suggests the demands of the position — at least for the remainder of the four-year term ending in 2022 — could be best suited for someone like himself with the time on his hands to serve the community on a more full-time basis.
"At my age now, I don't have so many family responsibilities. I garden, do a bit of fishing. I have a good pension," Roberge shares.
He adds, if he were to take over in Ward 7, it would likely be his last hurrah as a member of council.
"That is not my intention," says Roberge of running in 2022.